Is the message getting through to the National Trust?

At a meeting earlier this year between the League Against Cruel Sports and the National Trust, our evidence of illegal hunting taking place on Trust land was dismissed out of hand. So, when the League was invited for its second meeting of the year, there were hopes that the Trust may finally be understanding the scale of the issue.

Or perhaps not.

As you are probably already aware, the National Trust sells licences to hunts to ‘trail hunt’ on its estates. Last year, it issued 79 licences to 67 hunts. It is the position of the League that ‘trail hunting’ is nothing but a cover for illegal hunting, and we once again presented this argument to the Trust on Friday 8th September.

So, what’s the National Trust’s latest position on illegal hunting taking place on its land? They say that if it was illegal, there would be prosecutions, ergo there is no illegal hunting! Shocking. It is certainly true that flaws in the Hunting Act make it notoriously difficult to prosecute illegal hunting, but as we know all too well, that does not mean that it doesn’t happen. Besides which, when presented with hard video evidence of fox hunting, I find it hard to believe someone would deny the proof of their own eyes.

Not just fox hunting, but stag hunting too. Stag Hunting has been banned on National Trust land since before the Hunting Act, but when presented with footage of deer being relentlessly pursued by hounds, this footage was once again dismissed. Was it dismissed because the Trust allow ‘exemptions’ to the Hunting Act to be used? If so, how do they check this is what’s actually happening? Or maybe their attitude to our reports explains more…

Reports issues by the League and IFAW, showing exactly how hunts circumvent current legislation, were also ignored by the Trust, merely treated as ‘our perception’. This is of-course untrue, but it is curious that a meeting specifically held to hear our view (they have also met with pro-hunt parties), would then dismiss input on the grounds that it is our view? Very odd.

The National Trust prides itself on its conservation work, describing itself as ‘Europe’s largest conservation charity’, so you’ll will be as surprised as me to learn that, according to the Trust themselves, impact on conservation does not factor into how they determine what activities can take place on their land, with access to the public taking priority. This is especially concerning given our recent report highlighting the negative impacts hunting with dogs has on conservation.

This is especially worrying given that the Trust has no plans to monitor licenced hunts. They went to great pains to say that hunts may be ‘observed’, but that is as far as the Trust will go. At our last meeting the League offered training and resources, but no request was made by the Trust at this one. How they can be sure that hunts are staying within the law and the terms of their licence without being monitored is anyone’s guess.

It is this worrying lack of evidence-based decision making that makes the upcoming vote to ban hunting from Trust land so vital. They may not pay attention to the evidence given to them, but it would be unwise not to respect the wishes of the members. After all, there are over 4 million of them.

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